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T'itian. As appeals to the simple sensations of the human mind, by means of the external attributes of natural objects-as rich, eloquent, and harmonious pieces of colouring-these pictures have probably never been surpassed, even by Titian himself. Certainly, in England we have nothing else that can compare with them, in this particular respect. And if it should be admitted, as perhaps it may, that it is as pieces of colouring alone that these works are valuable, it must be regarded as the mere cant of criticism to attempt to depreciate them on this account, or to pretend that they are only partially admirable because the design and the expression of them are not equal to the colouring. They were never intended to be so, any more than the play of Romeo and Juliet was intended to excite the same sensations as that of Hamlet was, or this latter as Macbeth. To unite the highest possible perfection of design, expression, and colouring, in one work, so that each of them shall produce the strongest effect of which it is capable, is, perhaps, physically as well as morally impossible; and it would not be desirable if it were possible. We can only enjoy fully, and to their utmost extent, one set of sensations at a time. This is the constitution of our nature ; and if we attempt to alter or improve upon it, we shall at best lose in one way what we gain in another: but the chances are, that, in taxing our faculties beyond their power, we shall be losers altogether. The cup can but be full; and let it be remembered that the last drop which causes it to run over displaces considerably more than its own bulk. Applying this to the admirable works before us, if the expressions and forms of which the subjects are susceptible, had been as fine in their way as the colouring is in its way, the pictures would not have affected us so powerfully as they now do, and consequently would not have been so valuable. This is of course supposing that the perfection of expression aad form is to be found elsewhere. If it were not, the case might be different; though I scarcely think it would. I do not deny that the beauty of expression is of a higher kind than that of colouring ; but I doubt whether, in a grand work consisting of various parts, (like these in question) the highest degree of the two kinds of beauty can be advantageously united. What but this doubt, or a certainty on the subject, prevented Titian from uniting
For that he was capable of so doing, few will deny who are acquainted with his best works. What is the Pietro Martire but one piece of expression—not only in the faces and forms, but in the clouds, the trees, the very stones of the ground ? What can be finer in the way of expression, what more intense and poetical, than some parts of those admirable works forming what is called the Titian Room, at Blenheim ? What are his portraits, but expression itself? I cannot doubt that Titian expected and intended the predominant effect of these pictures to arise from their colouring, just as he intended expression to be the chief ingredient in the Pietro Martire ; and he constructed the different works accordingly. The one moves and delights us on the same principle that a finely acted tragedy does, and the others affect us nearly as a splendid autumn sunset does ; and if the one set of impressions are more valuable than the other, it is simply because they are more permanent. In fact, their want of permanence is the chief characteristic of those impressions which appeal to the senses alone,-as those arising from colours do. But I am far from admitting
that this evanescence diminishes their value. It is absolutely impossible to remember the smell of a rose, or the sound of an Æolian harp ; but do we not long for these, and recur to them more than we should otherwise do, on that very account? For
my own part, I declare, that though I am able, generally speaking, to recall at will any picture I. have once seen that made a great impression on me, and can see it as vividly and distinctly as if it were actually before me, yet of these pictures by Titian, which I stood gazing on for an hour last week, now that I am absent from them I have no more recollection as to their details than if I had never seen them: I do not even recollect the attitude of a single figure, except the principal one in each picture,and this probably on account of these particular figures being chiefly remarkable for their expression, and not their colouring. And yet I never saw any pictures that I have so strong a desire to see again and again. I feel that this subject is susceptible of a very clear and interesting developement; but I dare not trust myself to go farther into it here, or I shall exhaust:my space before I have noticed half the firstrate works in this princely collection. I must therefore take leave of these two charming pictures, by recommending them to the admiration of the lover of Art, and the study of the artist, as two of the most rich, glowing, mellow, and harmonious pieces of colouring that ever proceeded from the pencil.—There are two other very fine pictures in this room, which are worthy of a much more detailed notice than I can afford them : these are, the Woman taken in Adultery, by Pordenone, and a Holy Family, in a fine landscape, by Old Palma.
Returning to the small ante-room through which we passed into this chamber, we find a few works of very singular, and indeed first-rate excellence. Let those who doubt the power of Titian to mix the highest degree of expression with the highest perfection of colouring, when it suited his views so to do, look at the Venus rising from the Sea (94). It is a most exquisite picture, possessing that wonderful truth in the expression of the flesh, which no one else but him ever gave in an equal degree. The character, too, of the whole figure, floating and undulating in every part, like the element of which it is born, is altogether delightful and appropriate.-Underneath this picture hangs an admirable example of Vandyke's portraits (189), as fresh and blooming in colour and as free in touch as Rubens, but with more truth and firmness, as well as more delicacy and nature.
To the right of the last picture, a little above, hangs a delightful head by Guido (28). It is a Madonna—full of a sweet divinity, added to a graceful yet touching air of humanity, which are to be found united in but few works from any other hand than his. Guido's Madonnas are unlike all other heads that we see, either actual or ideal ; and the character they represent requires that this should be the case. They blend natural and supernatural attributes, the looks of heaven and of earth, so delicately together, that while both are apparent, neither predominates ; or rather, both are so distinguished that we may make either predominate, just as the mood in which we contemplate them requires. There is a great deal of talk about “ideal beauty," but with very little meaning in it. Perhaps the beautiful Madonnas of Guido have more of the "ideal” in them than any thing else in Artmore of something that belongs not to the earth-more of "the light
that never was on sea or land.” And this is the only kind of beauty that claims the name of ideal.-One of the most curious and elaborate pictures in this collection is the Last Judgment, by L. Bassano, (86) also in this room. Among the innumerable figures which this small picture contains, many are understood to be portraits, which are assigned places in the scene corresponding with the estimation in which they were held by the painter. Though not without gross faults in the design and detail of many parts of it, this is a work of very great merit, considering the extraordinary difficulties that have been overcome in it. The upper part of the picture, in particular, is very finely managed. The last work I shall notice in the Italian portion of this collection is is most charming one by Parmegiano, Cupid cutting his Bow (16). It is in a small inner-room, or passage, leading out of the centre gallery. For airy grace, and rich and harmonious sweetness, both of expression and colouring, this picture might have been painted by Correggio ; but there is a lofty freedom of manner, and a decision of outline, together with an antique and poetical character, which Correggio was apt to sacrifice to something less poetical perhaps, if not less imaginative. Nothing was ever more deliciously bland and captivating than the air and attitude of this lovely boy. There are two antique statues, now in the British Museum, each of which in a striking degree resembles this picture in attitude and expression, and in the age of the Cupid. Each is a single figure of Cupid bending his bow; and one or other of them had probably been seen by Parmegiano before he painted this work. It evidently became a favourite subject with him ; for there are several repetitions of it in different galleries of Europe. The two heads which are introduced at the bottom of the picture, of a laughing and a weeping child, are, in my estimation, any thing but an improvement to the picture. They disturb that unity of effect which results from the principal figure when looked at by itself.
At the east end of the central department of the Gallery is a room, containing the celebrated series of the Seven Sacraments, by Nicolo Poussin, from the Orleans Gallery. These are unquestionably a very valuable and complete set of pictures ; but it was not by painting such pictures as these that Poussin acquired and deserved that reputation which places him among the first of the old masters, in the first class. of Art. If we forget that Poussin belonged to the French school, it is in virtue of his Deluge, at the Louvre, his Education of Bacchus, at Dulwich, his Bacchanalian Scene, at Mr. Angerstein's, his Orion, &c. These proclaim him a great painter; while those before us, as well as many others of the same class that I have seen, only bespeak him a painter of great pictures. I do not by any means desire to depreciate the larger works of Poussin ; of which these perhaps offer some of the very best specimens extant. But I think that he should never have painted large works at all. His genius required confinement, and seemed to delight in it, both with respect to size and subject. He had so trained it to tread in the steps of the antique, that it felt at home no where else; he had so accustomed it to move in fetters, that it could move in them with more ease and grace, as well as more spirit, than when free. Give Poussin a simple subject requiring a unity of effect, a very limited number of figures, and a small space, and he could do wonders; but give him an acre of canvass, a crowd of figures, and a subject at once complicated and common-place, and he was but a better sort of common-place painter. His Moses striking the Rock, which I neglected to notice, in the grand centre gallery, is much finer than either of these, both in colouring and expression. There are, indeed, some very admirable parts in it, particularly a child that seems to be drinking with its mind as well as its mouth.
We now arrive at the Dutch and Flemish department of the Gallery. The most conspicuous object here is one of Rubens's grand allegorical works, Peace and War (137). A distinguished living critic, speaking of Spenser, at once answers and deprecates all objections to allegory, by saying, “ If we do not meddle with the allegory, it will not meddle with us."* Applying this to Rubens's pictures, (and it is at all events as applicable in the one case as the other, nothing more can be said. If we are not to meddle with the allegory of the work before us, there is no denying that it is a vigorous and spirited representation of certain human and other forms, and a gorgeous, glowing, and harmonious mass of colouring. Moreover it includes portraits of the painter and his family ; which, to be sure, “ do not meddle with us” any more than the allegory,—otherwise we might fairly take exception at their too frequent occurrence under similar circumstances. The two grand works by this master, which I had occasion to notice last month, and the one now before us, have each contained portraits of the painter, and two or three of his wives and children. This is, perhaps, "something too much," even in Sir Peter Paul Rubens ; in almost any one else it had been a mere impertinence. The two principal Teniers' in this collection (198 and 182) are worthy of all admiration, whether for their infinite variety and truth of character, their exquisite freedom and spirit of touch, or their unrivalled clearness of colouring.–The Ostades are also peculiarly choice and fine. I can only refer generally to the rich cluster of them that hangs on the right-hand side of the largest room belonging to this department. Among these, the Courtship (179) is perhaps the best.
In the Landscape department of this school we meet with some delicious pieces, each of them full of the peculiar manner of its author ; for all the Flemish landscape-painters are munnerists-except, perhaps, Hobbima, whose manner is that of Nature alone. As I have already occupied more than the space that can usually be devoted to these papers,
I am compelled to defer my notice of the characteristics of this class of painters till a future number. In the mean time I must content myself with pointing out a few specimens of their respective styles. Cuyp's large picture (142), the Landing of Prince Maurice at Dort, is a singular example of this artist's power of steeping his scenes in sunshine. There are several others by Cuyp, in two or three of his different styles ; but I think not one of his very first-rate pictures. By Both here are several most exquisite works, in his sweetest and richest manner ; but most of them are small. I ought not to particularize any of these ; for they are all delightful. By P. Wouvermans we have several rich gems. Nothing can be more charming in their way than 226, 227, and 228: the last, in particular, is a most sweet composition, as sweetly coloured. Here are several of Wynants' best works ; in particular four hanging nearly together (213, 215, 217, 219). The landscape with tower, figures, &c. (217) is very rich in all the qualities of his style. Here is also one most exquisite picture by Berghem-the best that I remember to have seen ; combining the warmth of Both, and the brightness of Wynants, with all his own sharpness and sweetness. Hobbima has but two pictures here, and those not among his best. No. 139 is, however, a very pretty little example of his purely natural manner.
* Hazlitt's Lectures on the Literature of the age of Elizabeth.
Passing over silently (as I am now compelled to do), but not on that account the less admiringly, numerous other rich and valuable specimens of the Flemish school in all its departments, I shall close this paper by noticing Rembrandt's Samuel and Hannah, as it is called (193). T'he female head, in this picture, is perhaps one of Rembrandt's most extraordinary and successful efforts in this way. It is of a miniature size, but touched with that wonderful force and spirit which is so conspicuous and effective in his larger works; and yet, whether looked at close, or at a distance, it has all the effect of a highly-finished miniature. The light (which is concentrated on the face of the old female) is put on in such a way as to make it, in a great degree, cast its own shadows -if I may so speak. The paint of which it is composed is nearly all white, but so laid on as to form of itself the wrinkles and inequalities ; just as the skin and flesh do by their sinkings and risings. It is, in fact, more like a piece of delicate modelling in clay, than a smooth surface receiving all its effects from different shades and tints of colour. Though as a composition—as a piece of general effect—this picture is of course not to be compared in value with Mr. Angerstein's wonderful picture by the same artist, yet, as a single head, it is, I think, finer than any one in that work. Indeed, as a single effect, regarded with reference to the apparently disproportionate means used to produce it, this head may, perhaps, be looked upon as one of the finest things in painting.
I now reluctantly take leave of this noble Collection ; lamenting the inadequacy of the account which my confined space, as well as abilities, have enabled me to give of it; but hoping that I may be not without some future opportunity of doing it-or, I should rather say, doing my own feelings respecting it, more justice.
When visions of the past-that will not rest
And thoughts long banish'd-feelings long supprest-
The scenes we loved, the friends we valued best,
Her look-her eyes her voice-her melting tone,
Her bounding form-perchance from childhood known,